Spezza hopeful for return
Senators centre might be ready to face Lightning on Thursday
|Centre Jason Spezza returned to the practice ice with the Senators today and is aiming to rejoin the team for Thursday night's matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning at Scotiabank Place (Photo by Richad Wolowicz/Getty Images).
But it was clearly a hopeful sign for the Ottawa Senators when the team's No. 1 centre made it through a full practice earlier today – his first since nagging back pain knocked him off the ice a week ago, sidelining him for the team's last two games.
"I felt pretty good today," Spezza said after the Senators went through an on-ice session at the Bell Sensplex. "I was pleasantly surprised with how I felt. I thought I’d feel worse. But we’ll see how it goes. It’s going to be more (about) how I recover.
"(The pain) hasn’t gone away completely but it’s feeling better. It’s a positive sign. It’s been hampering me all year and it just got to the point where I felt like I couldn’t go much longer without taking some time off. Hopefully, we’ve got it under control now and it shouldn’t be more of an issue for me."
Still, Spezza said he'll likely wait until after Thursday's pre-game skate until deciding whether he'll suit up later in the evening against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., TSN2, Team 1200).
"I'll see how I feel in the morning and go from there," he said.
Senators head coach Cory Clouston liked what he saw from Spezza today and expressed optimism he might have his top pivot man back in the lineup.
"As long as everything holds to the way he looked today. he'll play (against the Lightning). But we'll make that decision tomorrow morning," said Clouston, who wasn't surprised he might be getting Spezza back perhaps sooner than expected. "It's the type of injury. You can't put a time frame on it. (Spezza) has been progressing. He had a real good day yesterday and he looked like he was real good today."
Clouston also might have to make a lineup decision about centre Mike Fisher, who sat out this morning's workout to rest "some bumps and bruises."
"It'll all depend on Mike's situation and Jason's situation," Clouston said about any potential lineup changes. "We might know by this evening, depending on how these guys feel tonight. But we're going to hold off until tomorrow morning until we make any decisions."
"The guys don’t like the way the schedule is right now because it’s hard to get momentum and get playing and get a feel for the game," said Spezza. "But for me, it’s worked out well. I’ve been able to sit out a week and only miss two games. And if I don’t play tomorrow, it gives me almost 10 days with missing only three games.
"It’s just a matter of whether more time off is going to help. If they think more time off would cure me, then I’ll take more time off and make sure I’m 100 per cent. But I don’t know how much better it’s going to get. It might get better by playing and getting stronger that way."
No doubt the Senators' offence, which has produced three goals in two games during Spezza's absence, would feel a needed jolt with his return.
"Just his presence out there be welcomed back, no question," said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson. "Hopefully, he’ll be back soon."
Around the boards
The Senators could also use a boost in the faceoff circle, which might make Jesse Winchester an attractive option when he returns from his two-week conditioning stint with the Binghamton Senators, which ends after tonight's game against the Albany River Rats. "He's done a good job for us," Clouston said of Winchester's faceoff ability. "The game I watched him in Binghamton, he did a real good job in the faceoff circle as well." ... Fewer than 2,750 tickets remain for Thursday's game against the Lightning. It's also been designated as Canadian Forces Appreciation Night and fans are encouraged to wear red to support our troops, with more than 2,200 military personnel and their families scheduled to be in attendance at Scotiabank Place.